The End of a Serial Killer: Neal Falls

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12th May 2024  •  7 min read

In 2015, a woman in Charleston, West Virginia, shot dead a man who tried to kill her. She was unaware of it at the time, but he was a suspected serial killer..


The End of a Serial Killer: Neal Falls

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At approximately 3:30PM on July 18, 2015, a resident of the 800 block of 6th Street in Charleston, West Virginia, was startled by the sound of a woman screaming emanating from the alleyway behind her home. Prompted by concern, she ventured out to investigate, discovering Heather Saul in a state of agitation, pacing anxiously. Heather told the woman that she had been attacked by a man who tried to rape her, whom she subsequently shot and killed in self-defence. 1

The resident immediately called 911, relaying Heather’s distressing account to the operator. She described Heather’s visibly injured state, noting the presence of cuts. Responding to the call, officers were dispatched to the scene, where they found Heather still outside, visibly shaken. Heather disclosed that she worked as a sex worker and had advertised her services on the online platform Backpage. She recounted receiving a message from a man identified as Neal Falls, who had solicited her services, leading to the altercation.

Alone at home, Heather found herself face to face with Falls as he arrived at her doorstep. Without hesitation, he pressed a gun against her abdomen, uttering the chilling ultimatum, “live or die.” Drawing on her lifetime of resilience, Heather recounted her instinctual response: “I’ve fought men my whole life. I guess I had to be ready for that guy.” What followed was a frantic struggle for survival, spanning 10 to 15 minutes. Heather pleaded for her life, as Falls told her: “No, you’re going to be quiet,” as he tightened his grip around her throat.2

“I was telling him to please just let me breathe, but he wouldn’t,” she recalled. She said that Falls told her that he was calling the shots. Falls dragged Heather around the house with his hands gripped tightly around her throat. “I don’t know where he was wanting to take me, but he was wanting to take me somewhere,” she recollected.

The End of a Serial Killer: Neal Falls
Heather Saul / CBS

As Falls dragged Heather into the kitchen, their struggle intensified. It culminated with a moment of opportunity, as Heather spotted a rake within reach. She managed to grab it prompting Falls to momentarily lower his guard to try and take control of the makeshift weapon. Heather said: “I grabbed the gun and just shot it behind me. It hit him.” Heather was stunned; she told police she didn’t actually believe it was loaded since Falls hadn’t shot her.

Reflecting on the encounter, Heather said: “You could tell he was confident with what he was doing and saying. He had done it before. You could tell.” Falls was pronounced dead at the scene and it was decided that Heather wouldn’t be charged with any crime as it was a clear case of self-defence. However, the shooting would result in an investigation, but that investigation would be into Neal Falls.

Following the fatal confrontation with Falls, detectives made a chilling revelation: they suspected him to be a serial killer. When his vehicle was searched, they had come across a trove of unsettling items, including multiple axes, a shovel, bleach, a bulletproof vest, handcuffs, knives, and a machete, heightening suspicions of his nefarious activities.3 Moreover, tucked away in Falls’ pocket was another damning piece of evidence—a post-it note bearing the names, ages, and phone numbers of six sex workers who had advertised their services on the same platform as Heather.

In an effort to track down some leads, detectives released photographs of the items, along with Falls’ name and his photograph.

The End of a Serial Killer: Neal Falls
The “kill kit” found in Falls’ car

In response to the escalating gravity of the case, Charleston detectives enlisted the support of the FBI, recognising the necessity of a concerted effort to disseminate crucial information nationwide. Lt. Steve Cooper affirmed the collaboration, stating: “They are assisting us in submitting this case into a national database that goes to most law enforcement agencies throughout the country in order to share the details of what happened here.”

Simultaneously, a thorough examination of Falls’ background commenced, with detectives delving into his past in search of potential links to unsolved crimes. Born on September 24, 1969, in Eugene, Oregon, Falls was the youngest of ten siblings, growing up amidst poverty and familial turmoil exacerbated by an abusive father prone to violence against his mother. Following his formative years, Falls relocated to Greensburg, Kansas, where he resided with his father until the latter’s passing in 1995.4

Following his stint in Kansas, Falls returned to his native Oregon, where he secured employment as a private security guard. Subsequently, he relocated to Henderson, Nevada, in 2000, assuming a position as a security guard at Hoover Dam. However, reports from acquaintances suggest a disturbing shift in his demeanour, marked by increasingly aberrant behaviour, including reports of animal abuse in the desert expanses of Arizona.

During this period, Falls also developed a penchant for soliciting the services of sex workers, a habit that extended to international destinations such as the Philippines, where he engaged in sex tourism. These concerning behaviours culminated in 2008, when Falls faced allegations of sexual harassment, resulting in his departure from his job. 5

Subsequently, Falls adopted a transient lifestyle, traversing various states including Oregon, Indiana, Kentucky, and Texas. Descriptions from individuals who encountered him during this time depict him as “odd and creepy.” In January 2015, he experienced emotional turmoil following revelations about the marital status of a woman he was involved with, compounded by the loss of his mother.

During the investigation, the FBI identified Falls as a suspect in a string of murders targeting sex workers along the Las Vegas strip spanning from 2003 to 2007. Significantly, Falls lived in the nearby locale of Henderson during the period of the killings, coinciding with his employment at Hoover Dam.

Moreover, suspicions arose regarding his potential involvement in a series of unsolved homicides and disappearances of women in the vicinity of Chillicothe, Ohio, where he had been residing at the time of his death.6 Six women had vanished, and four had been found dead in creeks. After Falls was killed, the disappearances abruptly stopped.

Among the potential victims of Falls are:

Misty Marie Saens, a sex worker, disappeared from Las Vegas on March 12, 2003. Her torso was found wrapped in black plastic bags and cloth near State Route 159, close to State Route 160. She was identified by distinctive tattoos—a hummingbird and an M design.

Jodi Brewer, a sex worker, went missing from Las Vegas in August 2003. Her body was found wrapped in plastic near Interstate 15 in San Bernardino County, California, later that same month.7

Lindsay Harris, a sex worker, disappeared from Las Vegas on May 4, 2005. Her rental car was found abandoned in the south Las Vegas Valley. Approximately three weeks later, detectives discovered only her legs in a grassy field off Interstate 55 near Springfield, Illinois. It wasn’t until three years later that DNA testing confirmed the identity of the legs as belonging to Lindsay.8

Megan Nicole Lancaster, a sex worker, disappeared from Wheelersburg, Ohio, on April 3, 2013. She was expected to return to her parents’ home after running errands that night but never made it. Two days later, her car was discovered abandoned at a fast-food restaurant.

Holly Renee Logan, a sex worker who vanished in Columbus, Ohio, on July 21, 2013. She wasn’t reported missing until December of 2014. Her friend, Jayme Bowen, had vanished from the same area around six months earlier.

Charlotte Eliza Trego, a sex worker who vanished in Chillicothe, Ohio, on May 3, 2014. She had told her mother that she was going on a date, but she was never seen again. She had recently asked her mother to help her get into rehab.

Tameka Lynch, a friend of Charlotte and fellow sex worker, who vanished on May 20, 2014. Three weeks later, her semi-nude nude body was discovered in Paint Creek. She had died from an overdose, but her family believe that she was murdered.

Wanda Jean Lemons, a sex worker who vanished in Chillicothe, Ohio, on November 4, 2014. According to a friend, they had heard she went to Texas with an African-American truck driver. According to her family, it was uncharacteristic of her to not call or visit.

Shasta Himelrick was pregnant the last time her family saw her in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Christmas Day of 2014. Her body was found in a river a week later. She had drowned and her death was ruled a suicide. Her friends and family refute this, saying she was a happy woman especially about being newly pregnant.

Tiffany Sayre, a sex worker who vanished in Chillicothe, Ohio, on May 11, 2015. Her body was found wrapped up in a tarp and discarded in a culvert off Cave Road near the Ross and highland county line.

The breadth of Falls’ travels, as evidenced by his numerous traffic violations in 16 states, suggests the chilling possibility that his potential victims could span across the nation. Despite being a prime suspect in a multitude of murders, the absence of concrete physical evidence has hindered efforts to definitively link him to crimes.

 In 2018, Falls came under scrutiny in connection with the I-70 murders, a series of killings that plagued the Midwestern United States in 1992. His residency in Kansas at the time of the murders, where one of the murders occurred, coupled with eyewitness accounts strikingly similar to his appearance, cast suspicion upon him.

However, the lack of physical evidence thwarted attempts to establish a definitive connection between Falls and the string of homicides.

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Footnotes:

  1. Charleston Gazette-Mail, 23 July, 2015 – “West Side Shooting CPD”
  2. Charleston Gazette-Mail, 23 July, 2015 – “He Had Done it Before
  3. Associated Press, 22 July, 2015 – “Attacker Killed by Woman May Have Had Other Victims”
  4. Omaha Examiner, 30 July, 2015 – “Details About his Past Start to Emerge”
  5. The Daily Beast, 30 July, 2015 – “Portrait of a Serial Killer as an Online Perv”
  6. Cincinnati Examiner, 23 July, 2015 – “Possible Serial Killer Dead After Strangling His Last Victim”
  7. Cincinnati Examiner, 27 July, 2015 – “Neal Falls is Suspect”
  8. Las Vegas Review-Journal, 24 July, 2015 – “Man Killed by Prostitute May be Linked to Las Vegas Killings”

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